Brick Road Poetry Press

poetry made to entertain, amuse, and edify

The mission of Brick Road Poetry Press is to publish and promote poetry that entertains, amuses, edifies, and surprises a wide audience of appreciative readers.  We are not qualified to judge who deserves to be published, so we concentrate on publishing what we enjoy. Our preference is for poetry geared toward dramatizing the human experience in language rich with sensory image and metaphor, recognizing that poetry can be, at one and the same time, both familiar as the perspiration of daily labor and as outrageous as a carnival sideshow.

Poetry by Robert Cooperman from Just Drive

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Why We Drove Cabs


For some guys—

and back in the Seventies

it was mostly guys—

driving was a way station

between acting gigs,

rock band tours,

before writing careers

took off like Daedalus,

before grad school in a state

so far away I’d fantasize

the fare to drive there.


A way to pay the bills

for guys laid off,

or whose small businesses

were caught by bankruptcy

like mice in hawks’ talons:

temporary nests until

we could decide

about the rest of our lives.


But for lifers hacking paid

for their kids’ education;

they retired to Florida

at the end of a shift

lasting thirty, forty years:

to play pinochle and brag

about epic fares;

to feel the thrum of engines,

the jolt of shock absorbers

shaky as medical skeletons

with every pothole;

to smell gas fumes

even while slicing

Thanksgiving turkeys

or shoveling in delectable

bacon and eggs.


New York’s gasoline streets

forever ground into their sinuses,

forever part of their souls.



The Names We Went By


“Cab driver,” “Cabbie,”

“Taxi driver,” or just “Taxi!”

arm raised, fingers snapping

to be taken somewhere important,

because they were,

which brings me back to

“Taxi Driver,” as in the movie

that gave us all a bad name.


Also “Hack,” short for “Hackney,”

the horse-drawn cab

of London’s Victorian-sinister streets,

Sherlock Holmes shouting to hacks,

“Don’t spare the horses!”

to avert a crime

or chase down a criminal.


And my favorite,

the one I confess to coining,

but so did every other hack

driven cynical by New York’s

screaming streets:


“Yellow Cab Cowboy,”

cabbies slapping leather

to round up fares, to head off

cattle stampedes in our rush

to drop off fares

and rope other doggies,


then bragginground

the Belmore Cafeteria’s campfire

or the sparse warmth of the bench

at our garage while we waited for cabs:



Taxi Driver, or just, “Hey you!”


Taking the Hack Test


It wasn’t like the test

for London cabbies

in their gondola-black cabs

on episodes of Masterpiece Theatre

or in films about World War II;

nothing close to as rigorous

as studying and driving

London’s labyrinthine streets

for six months.


If you could read,

the garage sponsoring you

gave you the ten answers:

landmarks so famous

even visitors from Utah

knew how to find them:


Yankee Stadium,

Madison Square Garden,

Radio City, Carnegie Hall,

and six more everyone

in the world wanted to see.


I took the test

then was unleashed

onto New York’s streets.


Poor New York.



My First Fare


Four Cleveland conventioneers,

their combined girths groaning

the cab’s shocks like rhinos,

their wedding bands digging

into the folds of fat on their fingers,

nudging each other that,H “Hey,

we’re really in New York:

sex everywhere for the grabbing.”


“Where to?” I asked, trying to sound

enthusiastic as a flight attendant.


“Where can we get laid, kid?”

one of them demanded:  not

a trace of irony in his voice.


“How the hell should I know?”

I wanted to spit, but reminded

myself my job was just to drive,

so I answered, polite as apple sauce,


“How about Times Square?”

That block infamous, back then,

for hookers, pimps, pushers, and junkies:

all hungry as vampires, zombies,

and werewolves and twice as ferocious.


The four Musketeers happily agreed,


and I felt like a veteran hack

after five minutes behind the wheel;

felt too, the smallest twinge of pity

for them, but figured they were old

enough to know what they were getting into,

not to mention how to explain themselves

to their wives when their escapade

leaked out, and it was sure to. 


Between Careers


Like a lot of guys my age,

I was between careers:  namely,

between being fired and grad school

in the fall, in the real America

far to the west of New York.


And all that was required

was a driver’s license, a garage

to sponsor me, and enough English

to read the exam, the answers supplied.


My brother put in a word at his garage,

I had a driver’s license, and since

I’d be studying Literature, I assured

the dispatcher I could read well enough

to pass the test and decipher street signs.


I further assured him I wasn’t violent

or using drugs, though the last

a tiny white lie:  for the reefer

I smoked when I could get some.


I won’t say the money rolled in,

like in the old, bawdy song,

but I paid rent, utilities, and food,

got to a few movies, and even

saved a bit for autumn,

when I could escape New York,

in my own season of sweet mists.



The Order of March


I picked up my cab at the garage

on West 57th and Eleventh,

between three and three-thirty,

and dove east.  Unless a fare

raised an arm, I’d take the right

onto Fifth, drive south in the far

left lane, until I got hailed.


Still empty, I’d make a left

just below 42nd, and another

onto Madison, and head north again,

and if still no luck, turn left

above 57th, left again onto Fifth,

and repeat the march, until a fare

gave me a destination, and a new route:

like joining the design-dots

on a HoJo’s place-mat for kids.


Some cabbies lived and died

by airport fares, but before six,

easier, especially in rain or snow,

to trawl Midtown:  drifting west

or farther east when the fashionable

Fifth-Madison trade dried up,

dropping off fares fast as a Vegas dealer.


Around eight, dinner break;

with my brother or alone with a burger

and fries, digesting the sports section.


Then I’d stalk the Theatre District,

or the big hotels, to catch an airport fare,

and a fare (you never, ever wanted

to ride empty from the airports)

back to Manhattan, and clock out,

then trudge to the subway and home:

the line of march automatic, unthinking

as draftees calling out,


“Here, sergeant!” at roll call.



Marilyn Monroe in a Cab


An older friend smiles

sly as a burlesque barker,

to tell of the time he tried

hailing a cab on Fifth Avenue:

women stalking, panther sleek;

men debonair as foxes.

And every cab in Manhattan full.


So, when a taxi finally screeched

to a stop, not five feet from Ted’s

raised and pleading arm, and a woman

strangely familiar paid off the hack,

Ted gasped, dawning on him

with the force of Homer’s sunrises,


that the passenger was Marilyn Monroe

without her makeup, looking

like she’d had a rough night,

and that Joltin’ Joe might really

have belted her around a bit,

but still those legs, those breasts,

the jeans she was poured into.


Ted held his breath

as if his head was shoved underwater.


Walking past him, Marilyn smiled,

in role as an incognito Cleopatra

condescending to a commoner.


And while Ted was mesmerized


by her undulating wake, another

guy darted into the cab,

Marilyn vanishing.


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